Researchers have found that these books are loved by both liberals and conservatives.
These days, it can feel almost impossible to navigate a get-together with family or dinner with friends without a political comment sparking a heated debate—even if everyone tends to get along. But despite our divides, literature shows us that there are ways to engage in essential conversations without getting into the polarizing details of current events.
To uncover what books both liberals and conservatives both engage with, Andrew Piper and Richard Jean So, both professors of literature, studied the books read by members of the social media site Goodreads. To determine political affiliations, they searched readers’ bookshelves for positive reviews of highly partisan titles and labeled them a “liberal reader” or a “conservative reader” based on their opinions of those books. This resulted in a total pool of 27,852 readers.
The pair then searched those bookshelves for fiction titles and identified which titles appeared most frequently, finding around 3,000 titles out of several hundred thousand that appeared on at least 100 readers’ bookshelves. What they found when they looked even closer at the data is that a large group of books appeared on both readers’ shelves in equal amounts. Piper and So call these “bridge books” because they bridge the gap between the right and the left, conservatives and liberals.
Below, find the full list of 100 bridge books, plus details about the 10 most popular selections, many of which touch on essential moral and political questions, offering a neutral point from which to foster conversations and connect with those whose views might be different from your own.
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
You probably read this Pulitzer Prize-winning book in high school English class or have likely seen its Academy Award-winning movie adaption. The classic story examines racial injustice, class, and human nature through the eyes of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch and is loosely based on the author's own experiences growing up.
To buy: $6; amazon.com.
1984, By George Orwell
Another classic included on countless school reading lists, 1984 is a dystopian novel set in London, where nothing is safe from an omnipresent government. Even your thoughts are vulnerable to the Thought Police. This important story from George Orwell questions the role of government in society and the importance of freedom and individualism.
To buy: $10; barnesandnoble.com.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
This novel, another poignant political allegory from George Orwell, questions whether it's possible to create a society in which all members are truly equal. When the animals on Manor Farm decide to revolt against the humans, they intend to establish a new society with no hierarchy. But breeds soon begin to turn on one another, with some oppressing others and adopting the slogan, "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." Written initially as a critique of the Soviet Union under Stalin, this novel remains timely today.
To buy: $9; amazon.com.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
When a group of young schoolboys are stranded on an island after a plane crash, they revel in their freedom and lack of supervision. But as time passes and resources become scarce, the boys begin to descend into madness and disorganization. This iconic novel from William Golding looks at our ability to balance our wild and savage instincts with our civilized and empathetic ones.
To buy: $9; amazon.com.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
This thriller from Stieg Larsson is the only title on this list that was published after the year 2000. The explosive story follows Lisbeth Salander, an edgy, young computer hacker, as she assists journalist Mikael Blomkvist in investigating his niece's disappearance decades prior. In addition to being an engrossing psychological thriller, Larsson's novel touches on the negative toll that extremism and prejudice can take when permeated throughout society.
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
This dystopian novel follows a team of “firemen” tasked with burning illegal literature in a futuristic totalitarian regime. In this bleak society, the government censors all media and literature is on the brink of extinction, a thought-provoking premise that calls on the reader to examine the value and function of media and books in society. The classic novel is also being developed into an HBO series that will star Michael Shannon and Michael B. Jordan.
To buy: $10, amazon.com.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Mark Twain's most famous novel, considered by many as one of the greatest American novels in history, follows young orphan Huck and runaway slave Jim on their journey down the Mississippi river. Though it's been banned frequently over the years, it touches on a whole range of issues that remain important today, including friendship, religion and the question of what it means to be free.
To buy: $5; amazon.com.
A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
The first book in the series that inspired the super-popular HBO show follows a complex group of families and kingdoms in their ongoing struggle for power over one another. Throughout the highly complicated story, even the most magical and fantastic characters grapple with the very human issues of love, family loyalty, betrayal, and most of all, the thirst for power.
To buy: $7; amazon.com.
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
Arguably Shakespeare's most famous play, this tragic drama follows the blooming love between Romeo and Juliet, who are forbidden to see one another because of a generations-old feud between their families. The centuries-old story addresses our ties and loyalties to family and the risks we will take, despite all odds, for a chance at true love.
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley explores human nature through the scientist Victor Frankenstein and his monster. When Frankenstein successfully brings his creation to life, he celebrates his great scientific discovery. But soon he is shocked at how evil and inhumane the creature becomes. Through this science fiction tale. Shelley questions the true root of manhood, the dangers of toying with the natural world, and the vast differences between something coming to life and something becoming human.
To buy: $7; amazon.com.
90 Other Bridge Books to Consider
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë ($9, amazon.com)
- Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen ($9, amazon.com)
- The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold ($10, amazon.com)
- Hamlet, by William Shakespeare ($6, amazon.com)
- A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini ($12, amazon.com)
- A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle ($5, amazon.com)
- 11/22/63, by Stephen King ($18, amazon.com)
- The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd ($10, amazon.com)
- World War Z, by Max Brooks ($9, amazon.com)
- Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville ($8, amazon.com)
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer ($11, amazon.com)
- The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton ($9, amazon.com)
- Emma, by Jane Austen ($4, amazon.com)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith ($13, amazon.com)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare ($10, amazon.com)
- The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant ($14, amazon.com)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl ($8, amazon.com)
- The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells ($6, amazon.com)
- 2001: Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke ($9, amazon.com)
- Persuasion, by Jane Austen ($4, amazon.com)
- Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier ($11, amazon.com)
- Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift ($8, amazon.com)
- Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding ($10, amazon.com)
- The Pearl, by John Steinbeck ($7, amazon.com)
- The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck ($8, amazon.com)
- I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov ($10, amazon.com)
- Girl With the Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier ($10, amazon.com)
- Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes ($13, amazon.com)
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells ($9, amazon.com)
- The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss ($12, amazon.com)
- Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier ($8, amazon.com)
- The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova ($11, amazon.com)
- The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer ($4, amazon.com)
- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs ($8, amazon.com)
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein ($10, amazon.com)
- Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll ($6, amazon.com)
- The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman ($15, amazon.com)
- Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare ($6, amazon.com)
- Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline ($10, amazon.com)
- The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe ($13, amazon.com)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ($7, amazon.com)
- The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield ($11, amazon.com)
- Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare ($6, amazon.com)
- The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King ($9, amazon.com)
- Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen ($9, amazon.com)
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain ($10, amazon.com)
- Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes ($11, amazon.com)
- Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen ($7, amazon.com)
- Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne ($12, amazon.com)
- Paradise Lost, by John Milton ($8, amazon.com)
- Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris ($6, amazon.com)
- The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss ($7, amazon.com)
- The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith ($9, amazon.com)
- The Alienist, by Caleb Carr ($10, amazon.com)
- Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke ($7, amazon.com)
- Old Man's War, by John Scalzi ($9, amazon.com)
- Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert ($8, amazon.com)
- Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy ($10, amazon.com)
- The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare ($5, amazon.com)
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg ($9, amazon.com)
- The Waste Lands, by Stephen King ($9, amazon.com)
- Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King ($12, amazon.com)
- The Chosen, by Chaim Potok ($8, amazon.com)
- The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice ($7, amazon.com)
- Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie ($7, amazon.com)
- Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert ($9, amazon.com)
- Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King ($9, amazon.com)
- Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen ($6, amazon.com)
- The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells ($6, amazon.com)
- The Divine Comedy, by Dante ($18, amazon.com)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury ($11, amazon.com)
- Wonder, by R. J. Palacio ($10, amazon.com)
- Ringworld, by Larry Niven ($8, amazon.com)
- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson ($11, amazon.com)
- Are You There God? It's Me; Margaret, by Judy Blume ($6, amazon.com)
- Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey ($9, amazon.com)
- Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty ($13, amazon.com)
- Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher ($7, amazon.com)
- The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh ($11, amazon.com)
- Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King ($9, amazon.com)
- Inferno, by Dan Brown ($7, amazon.com)
- Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane ($9, amazon.com)
- Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson ($9, amazon.com)
- Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris ($6, amazon.com)
- The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H. G. Wells ($6, amazon.com)
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley ($12, amazon.com)
- The Dark Tower, by Stephen King ($11, amazon.com)
- Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit ($7, amazon.com)
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares ($5, amazon.com)
- Revival, by Stephen King ($12, amazon.com)